1 – Does not work
2 – Barely functional
3 – Severely lacking in most areas
4 – Functions, but has numerous issues
5 – Fine yet leaves a lot to be desired
6 – Good enough to buy on sale
7 – Great and worth purchasing
8 – Fantastic, approaching best-in-class
9 – Best-in-class
10 – Borderline perfection
Justin Duino / How-To Geek
NVIDIA’s new premium cloud gaming tier, GeForce NOW Ultimate, kicks performance up a notch, ditching its already-acclaimed RTX 3080 supercomputers for RTX 4080. With GeForce NOW Ultimate’s speedy frame rates, stunning graphics, and top-tier performance—the price feels like a steal.
NVIDIA’s GeForce NOW launched as a beta program in late 2015 and became publically available in early 2020. From there, NVIDIA launched its premium tier, GeForce NOW RTX 3080, for $20 per month in October 2021. Reborn as the new GeForce NOW Ultimate, a subscription boasts RTX 4080 SuperPODS—NVIDIA’s supercomputers with Ada Lovelace GPUs–and 1.75 times faster performance than RTX 3080. With more power, you’d expect a price increase, but NVIDIA is keeping it status quo at $20 per month.
A subscription gave me fully ray-traced graphics, AV1 encoding (which uses about 15% less bandwidth for online gaming than NVIDIA’s previous H.265 encoding method), and up to 240 frame rates per second (FPS). In my week with GeForce NOW Ultimate, I played my way through hours of enjoyable games on the cloud and found NVIDIA’s newest upgrade almost too good to be true. However, while the Ultimate subscription does everything it claims, it only pays for itself if you game a lot and don’t mind shelling out extra money to play games you already own.
Here’s What We Like
RTX and DLSS3 work like a charm
Low latency streaming
HDR and 4K outputs available, up to 240fps
Compatible with NVIDIA G-Sync
Multiple settings to customize your gaming experience based on your needs
And What We Don’t
The subscription costs $20 per month; $240 for the year
There is no rotating free game service, such as what Xbox Game Pass offers
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The GeForce NOW Ultimate Membership: Connectivity and App
App for Computers: NVIDIA GeForce NOW available on macOS, Windows PCs, Chrome OS, Chrome (desktop web browser)
App for Mobile: Android or through Safari on iPhone and iPad
App for TVs: LG TVs (select 2021, 2022 models), Android TV, Samsung TVs (select 2022 models), SHIELD TV, Chromecast with Google TV, Sony TV
Cost: $20 per month (on a 1-month plan) or $100 for 6 months (about $20 less than paying month-to-month)
To use GeForce NOW cloud gaming, you’ll need the GeForce NOW app (available on most major operating systems and browsers (as detailed above). Before you sign up, make sure you have a compatible system by checking the system requirements page. It’s also important to note the GeForce NOW Ultimate’s 4080 performance availability will depend on your location since, at the time of writing, NVIDIA is in the process of upgrading its data centers with the RTX 4080 SuperPOD computers. Luckily, I was within range of NVIDIA’s Southwest U.S. servers, which have upgraded computers.
Downloading the app and creating an NVIDIA account is easy. It took a few minutes to get everything set up, including linking my gaming accounts (see below).
The app has a user-friendly layout that I found enjoyable to use. There’s a home page titled “Games,” where you’ll find your library of games, free-to-play games, and other game options available to buy via connected online stores (Steam and Ubisoft), which are organized in categories like “Indie Spotlight” or by developer/publisher.
If you click on the three lines menu in the top-left corner, you’ll also find a “Gallery” page, where all your screenshots and video captures you take with GeForce NOW will go—and a “Settings” page.
Linking Your Gaming Accounts
Available Gaming Accounts To Fully Sync: Ubisoft Connect, Steam, EA
Limited Sync Capabilities: Epic Games is limited to Fortnite automatic sign-in; sync for game library is not supported
Before I could start playing games I owned on Steam and Ubisoft, I needed to connect my accounts to sync my game libraries. I went to the GeForce NOW app’s “Settings” page and located the “Connections” box in the top-right corner to get things configured. In less than 10 minutes, I had my Steam, Ubisoft Connect, and Epic Games accounts connected. All you do is allow sync permissions, log in, and you’re good to go.
While GeForce NOW fully syncs your Steam and Ubisoft Connect game libraries, you can’t sync your game library with Epic Games. But it’s worth connecting your Epic Games account if you play “Fortnite” since it gives you automatic sign-in for the popular online game.
How NVIDIA’s GeForce NOW Cloud Gaming Works
GPUs: Ada Lovelace
Supercomputers: RTX 4080 SuperPODS
Cloud gaming allows you to play games online without downloading the (often large) files. This saves you time waiting for a large download and also saves space on your PC. It also allows you to play AAA games on computers, laptops, tablets, and phones that don’t have the horsepower to handle such resource-heavy titles.
For someone with a bogged-down laptop that doesn’t run games well, NVIDIA’s GeForce NOW Ultimate made my jaw drop with its precision, speed, and low latency. The refresh rates also surprised me since my PC is notoriously slow these days (read: borderline dinosaur). There are things I could do to try to speed up my slow PC, but it still isn’t made for gaming, either way.
Here’s where NVIDIA’s GeForce Now Ultimate stands out as a cloud gaming service—it conglomerates games you already own and allows you to play them on the cloud. This isn’t something other cloud services don’t offer, though. Amazon Luna, for instance, does the same thing. Via Luna, you can play games you already own through Ubisoft Connect and access a small library of rotating free-to-play games. As a note, though, Luna recently slimmed down its game library in the last couple of months.
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The Only Cloud Gaming Service You’ll Need… Sans a Giant Free Library of Games
There are free-to-play games available through NVIDIA GeForce NOW, but these are games you can already play and stream for free via Steam, Ubisoft Connect, and Epic Games. Compared to the cloud service through Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, for example, GeForce Now doesn’t have a rotating library of free-to-play games.
This doesn’t mean more free games won’t be added to its free section. As Steam and Ubisoft make compatible games free, those should appear in the app. New compatible games available for purchase are also added to the app every Thursday under the “GFN Thursday” category.
If you’re looking for a vast, rotating library of free games, GeForce NOW might not be the cloud service for you. For instance, on Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, I can play “Mortal Shell: Enhanced Edition” through Xbox Cloud Gaming—at no extra cost. If I beat the game before Xbox removes it, I’ve completed it for free, less the expense of my Game Pass Ultimate subscription, which is $15 a month. In the past, I’ve beaten two or three games on Game Pass in a month, which is more economical than paying for each title. “Mortal Shell” is also available on GeForce NOW Ultimate, but I’d have to buy it through Steam to play it, an additional expense on top of the $20 a month for the cloud service.
That said, you’re paying to connect to its network of supercomputers (aka those SuperPODS, which sounds so fancy)—and therein lies the value for your money. If GeForce NOW Ultimate can turn my Brontosaurus HP laptop into a pro gaming system, they can probably do so with any device with the minimum compatibility requirements. Compared to Xbox Cloud Gaming on my laptop, which is technically still in beta, GeForce NOW wins hands-down in stream quality, latency, and overall performance.
Performance: Mindblowing Speed and Brilliant Graphics
Subscription Features with GeForce NOW Ultimate: NVIDIA Reflex with G-SYNC support, full ray traced graphics, DLSS 3 with DLSS Frame Generation, and DLSS Super Resolution
Resolutions Available: Ultrawide compatibility, up to 4K resolution at up to 120 FPS
Minimum Internet Connection Speed Required: at least 45Mbps for streaming up to 3840x2160p at 120 FPS, at least 35Mbps for 2560x1440p at 120 FPS for most iMacs, or 2560x1600p at 120 FPS for most MacBooks, and at least 35Mbps for 1920×1080 at 240fps.
GeForce NOW App version: 188.8.131.52 or later
Number of Compatible Games: Over 1,500
On my laptop, desktop, and Samsung S22 Ultra, GeForce NOW Ultimate allowed me to play detailed, intensive games without so much as a stutter.
During hours of gaming, I played a variety of games to test different elements of the service. My first day was a particularly gloomy one—heavy rain and wind were affecting my Wi-Fi connection, and it didn’t make for a pleasant experience. This was no issue on NVIDIA’s end—this was a local issue I experienced due to the weather and some spotty service. Although GeForce NOW allows you to use NVIDIA’s supercomputers, you still need a sturdy connection on your end to make it all run smoothly.